Monday, May 23, 2011

Series: Becoming Debt Free...The 3rd and 4th Years

*** In this post the continuation of our story is somewhat explicit as I talk about some medical issues I was having.  I considered leaving this part out of the story, but it would defeat the purpose of this series as I want to explain the reasons behind our debt.  Sorry if it offends anyone.  This is your "heads up" to skip this post if you'd like.  I talk more in-depth about some this in future posts too!

Go HERE to read The 1st and 2nd Years.

Last week we left off where our first-born, David, was added to our family.  What a blessing he was and still is today.  I loved being able to stay home with him during his infant stages.  I don't think I missed a single milestone of his!  Still, times were tough and we didn't see Brian much as he was still working and going to school full-time.  It didn't pay me to get a job considering child-care costs, and honestly, my hearts desire was to stay home.

Somehow, we managed to always have food on the table and carried on with our daily activities.  Our first little rental house was TINY!  It had two small bedrooms and a kitchen so small that we could hardly fit a table in it.  In fact, when we had company over we would have to move the table into the living room for everyone to fit around that table!  Nothing in the house was new.  Everything we owned was given to us by others including our bed (a wedding gift), our kitchen table and chairs, the couch and recliner, etc.  We LOVED being out of the apartment and in a house!

At this point in our lives we managed to pay off one of the college loans.  We also owned 2 vehicles that we paid for with cash.  Still, there was hardly any savings.  We both knew to save, but we didn't really understand how to go about it.  Neither of us had been taught how to save, how to set up a budget, how to manage our money instead of our money managing us.  We lived paycheck to paycheck.

David was a preemie and as usual with preemie babies they tend to have more health problems.  We were at the pediatrician constantly with him due to various illnesses.  He was on an apnea monitor for a full year, plus he had terrible problems with allergies and eczema.  We had insurance, but insurance doesn't cover some expenses.  If you're on a tight budget you know that deductibles and co-pays add up!  Along with David's medical issues I started having some medical issues of my own.

When David was around 6 months old I found myself sick quite frequently.  I was having a lot of nausea, vomiting and chronic diarrhea.  I had lost tons of weight and couldn't keep any food in me.  The only foods that didn't bother me were potatoes and rice.  After seeing my primary physician I was referred to a Gastroenterologist (G.I.)  The G.I. basically took down my symptoms and told me that I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and that there was nothing he could do for me.  After several more months I went back and he continued to tell me that I wasn't as sick as I lead on.  I had a few tests done and nothing was found as being abnormal.  The doctor pretty much released me from his care and I never went back to him again....partly because I was discouraged, and partly because we couldn't afford for me to go to the doctor anymore.  Especially, when I wasn't getting treatment for my symptoms anyway!

As time went on I started feeling much better, was able to eat more, and gained some weight back. The episodes of diarrhea were still frequent, but manageable.  The neighbor next door to us moved and we inquired about renting the house.  The landlords let us move in!  It was a little bit larger than ours (meaning that we could sit people around the kitchen table!  It also had a laundry room with a huge pantry!)  The rent was $25.00 less per month than we were paying so it was a win/win!  I baby sat my nephews and another little boy for some extra income, but only for around 6 months and I continued decorating a few cakes for people.

Money was tight and seemed to be getting tighter.  Eventually I realized that Brian was hiding some spending from me.  We had an agreement early on in our marriage that we wouldn't spend over a certain amount without consulting the other first.  Let me pause here to say goal isn't to paint an awful picture of my husband.  Those of you that know him personally know what a wonderful man he is.  But remember how young we were.  We were inexperienced with handling money, clueless as to what a budget was about, etc.  We were short $60 per week and I didn't know where it was going!  Eventually, Brian fessed up to buying some tools for his job.  He's a mechanic and mechanics need tools.  Mechanics are also bombarded by tool companies that encourage them to purchase the latest and greatest tools by paying weekly for them!  Basically, it was a small loan!

We decided during this time that I would get a job.  David was now 18 months old.  Brian's mom kept David while I worked an early morning shift at a fast food restaurant.  I was home by noon, so at least I didn't miss much of him!  I worked until David was 2 1/2 years old because I found out that I was pregnant again.  Because of the complications with my first pregnancy we decided that I should not work and just try to ride this pregnancy out nice and easy!

As time went on we found that we were in a hole and didn't know how to get out of it.  Not wanting to burden our parents, we called our Pastor and asked for some help with budgeting.  He came over that evening and took a look at our bills and paychecks, etc.  I'll never forget him saying..."Well, I found the problem... you have more going out then you have coming in!"  I know it sounds ridiculous to many of you, but it really was the first time that Brian and I realized that we needed a budget.  Our Pastor helped us do that and over the course of the next few months we had managed to save up some money, paid off our second college loan and paid off Brian's tool bills.

As we headed to church one Sunday morning we noticed a house for sale.  We honestly had no business buying a house, but we were still really clueless in financial matters...very clueless.  We didn't have much savings, I wasn't working, we were living off one income with a 2 year old and a baby on the way.  I had a strange gastrointestinal issue going on...I'm not sure where our brains were!  However, the house was everything we were looking for and somehow we were approved for a loan!  It was 2 blocks from our church which came in handy as we could walk there!  We moved in April, 1998 and were very proud of our purchase!  I was due to deliver the baby in mid-December.

In the early summer months I was already having problems with my pregnancy.....I found myself on bed rest once again.  I was eventually admitted to the hospital on October 16 and put on medicines to try to keep me from giving birth.  Unlike David, the medicines failed to work and I gave birth to 4 pound 1 ounce Jacob only 10 days later on October 26, 1998...two months earlier than his due date!  He was a sick, tiny preemie baby with unknown issues.....

 Points I wanted to make in this post:
1.  Be proactive in your health.  If you know you're sick keep pushing for help from other doctors if necessary.  Also, do research of your own!
2.  To make a point that medical bills were beginning to affect ways we did not foresee!
3.  Make a budget!  Get on the same financial page with your spouse and stick to it!

Tune in next week as I continue to share our story....

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